From the teleport, the party is still somewhat dazed, but soon realise that there is no water nearby, and the earlier thoughts of this being a beach were wrong. This is a desert. Brant thinks on his knowledge and where the group was trying to get to, travelling from Máurdorne to Mountainsfoot, and arriving in this sandy place he surmises that this is still part of the Protectorate of Oskiliath, and the only desertus place is Derimyre. Realising this, Magnus sends his chuff, Sisero into the air, to establish a bird’s eye view of the situation, and whether there is civilisation nearby. Whilst Magnus magikally sees through the eyes of his arcane pet, Rhogar unfurls two tents and begins to cut them up, into a canopy of sorts, to provide shelter from the sun, whilst still being able to function as tents against what is presumed to be cold night air here. Granuaile joins Karmel in protecting Amelie, whilst the others assist Rhogar in his task. Orryon and Brant are able to cool the air down with some minor magikal effort. A cool breeze is created over each individual, to help combat the heat of the arid climate. Sisero returns, and as the bird lands, the dwarf opens his eyes explaining that there is an encampment nearby to the north slightly. It has a green flag sporting a purple scimitar. Whilst little is known if this is friend of foe, the one truth of a desert is where there are people, there is water, and so the decision is made to begin to walk in that direction, with Granuaile and Karmel sharing protective duties, as well as 428 and Rhogar carrying the canopy as best they can. Brant thinks back to his stories heard from other bards, and with some assistance from Rhogar, who it seems is familiar with Derimyre, recall that this flag is the symbol of a warlord known as Abdul Ahrmanas, who is known to be disagreeable at the best of times.
The group stop before the crest of a sand dune, and peer over, and down towards the camp. High simple stone walls surround the perimeter, with guards before an old looking wooden gate. The guards appear to be dressed simply, in robes designed to offer cover, but be light enough to not cause discomfort in the heat. Each carries a spear or javelin, but a scimitar is tucked into scabbards at their waists. The group decide to keep Amelie back, as she is too important to risk. Karmel and Granuaile choose to stay with her as protection, and so 428 also chooses to stay with the group. Magnus places his bird on Orryon’s shoulder, so that he can keep an eye on proceedings, allowing Brant and Orryon who have a way at reading people and situations, as well as Rhogar who knows the area to journey down into the camp to barter for water or supplies.
As the trio approaches, Rhogar soon realises that he can speak the local language, and Brant hums to himself, instilling his mouth with his magik, and enabling anyone who hears him, to understand him in their native dialect. Only Orryon has nothing to enable conversation, and so they agree a plan that Orryon works for the others, and has had his tongue cut out for disobedience. As they arrive nearer the gate, the guards ready their weapons, but Brant calls out, and encourages them that Rhogar is a highly important trader, who seeks to establish trading links with Abdul Ahrmanas. They are brought inside the camp, and Magnus shifts his gaze away from the soldiers around him, to look through his arcane bird’s eyes and follow the situation, though he too, cannot understand the languages spoken.
The trio offer skills in exchange for goods, and are lead from the gate to a larger more permanent looking tent. Inside an older human sits at a table – he seems to be in charge of this territory, and after a short and guarded interaction Orryon’s services as a healer are offered in exchange for water, though Rhogar fails to confirm how long Orryon will be in service. The trio are separated, with the elf being lead into another tent, full of rotting bodies. His training takes over and he begins to triage, creating order from the chaos of the tent. Separating out who can be helped, and who needs pain relief before they pass, as well as those who may be helped, but could also infect others. Some semblance of order is introduced as Orryon works methodically tending to the warlords wounded soldiers, knowing only that this was part of the deal to earn water for the party.
The old man continues to barter with Rhogar and Brant, and wants Orryon to stay for longer, having seen his work. Rhogar is willing to let Orryon stay here for two hours, in exchange for the water, and tents more suitable to this climate.
On the sand dunes, Magnus’ eyes are still focused on following the goings on within the camp, and so he spots the horses and riders approaching the older man’s tent. This newer group dismount and enter, and reveal that the old man with whom Rhogar had been bartering was not in fact the warlord, but a substitute to act as a means of defence against assassination from other warlords in the desert. A body double or decoy. Brant and Rhogar reveal that they will need more water, as there is not just the three who entered the camp, and in doing so, give away the location of the other party members. A group of riders are dispatched to round up the other party members, under the guise of a reunion, and that all should be together to discuss what can be bartered.
The group is brought within the walls of the camp. The riders dismount, and stable their steeds in an outside paddock before bringing their guests in front of the warlord. It is then that the true warlord Abdul Ahrmanas is revealed. An older human, with dark tanned skin, leathery from years fighting in the sun. His robes are also loose, and only cover him from the waist down. His top half is not robed, but armoured with glistening golden polished metal. His own insignia, the purple scimitar painted delicately onto each shoulder pouldron. His beard is grey and he is obviously older than his men, but not frail. His body seems to be kept in a state of perpetual alertness, with tightened muscles ready to spring into action without hesitation. He instructs his soldiers to attack Karmel, Granuaile, 428, Amelie, and Magnus, as well as Brant and Rhogar, not seeing them as having any particular value. The fighting begins as blades are drawn, and crossbows fired. Granuaile is separated from Amelie and Karmel, but reaches the outside stables, and mounts a magnificent stallion. She spurs two other horses to ride, allowing Brant to summersault onto one, and Magnus mounting another. The wizard dips his hand into his component pouch, and pulls out his hand with middle finger extended, but coated in some reagent. The finger glows white hot, and Magnus exhales a breath into his finger through pursed lips, sending a bead of white hot light into the centre of the enemy’s ranks. As it connects the bead detonates into an erupting fireball, exploding outward as an arcane grenade, catching the edge of the healing tent in the blaze, as well as burning one of the other horses in its wake. Granuaile adds to the fire conjuring a smaller flame in her hand from above her mount, throwing this into the beard of Abdul, filling the air with a distinct scent of burning hair and flesh. Rhogar rushes into the medical tent to alert Orryon as to what is happening, and the elf finishes the bandage he is wrapping, before the pair rush out of the tent, in fear of being trapped when the flames reach them. The initial eight adventurers now with three horses between them mount as best they can, sharing weight, and spur the beasts to charge from the camp and the fire, with some members throwing spells and bolts as they flee. Abdul orders his men to rally and give chase. Even those in the medical tent are forced to stand and fight. Many mount their remaining horses, including Abdul. The warlord brandishing his twin scimitars riding without holding the reigns, and leading the charge himself. Dozens of angry riders chase the party who can only move slowly with so few mounts. Magnus dips his hand once more, and blows a larger bead towards their pursuers. This bead strikes at the hooves of the horse Abdul and his men ride. Many of the warriors are able to escape the flames, but their horses are not so lucky, and erupt. Those that survive the first hit, throw their riders, bucking wildly, and panicking. But they are few in number, as the fire licks its way across the sand, turning it to glass in the heat, slipping the horses over, and feeding itself on equine meat and human alike. Magnus and Rhogar continue to look over their shoulders, but no more riders come, and it seems, for now at least, the eight are in relative safety with stolen horses. It is then that Brant realises his steed is carrying two large sacks of gold, and 15 partially filled water skins. Having taken stock, the group chose to head north east, towards the mountain range, thinking that there may be caves there, to act as shelter from the heat, and in the night, as well as the possibility of water. It is also thought that few warlords would travel to the mountains as it is far out of the way of direct route between any known cities in Derimyre.
The group ride hard, not slowing for fear they may be caught by any who survived the immense fireball. Eventually reaching the mountainside and successfully finding a cave. Small to enter, meaning the horses had to be tethered outside, but once within the stone structure, the cave opened up to be much deeper than initially thought, stretching fifty feet back, and almost the same again in width. A fire is lit, and the eight settle to recover the days transport, and rough interaction with the warlord.
Magnus asks Orryon for a word, wanting to check that the elf is ok after the fight, and being sold into slavery by Rhogar. The elf and the dwarf exit the cave for a more private conversation whilst the others tend to their own thoughts. Brant begins to talk with Amelie, with Granuaile not letting the young girl far from her sight.
In the darkening desert a cool evening wind carries sand through the air. The healer and his father’s friend walk in silence for a short time, until Magnus starts a dialogue.
Magnus begins by revisiting memories that the two will have shared, of Orryon’s father, Darlenma Talli. Orryon remembers his father serving as the Surgeon Prima to the royal court of Bukká Mortainé, and that during the war, Orryon, his twin sister Orryiana and their father were joined to a battalion stationed at Seabart Pictorius. During this time Magnus worked as a cartographer scouting safer routes of travel for refugees, as well as the defending militia. Magnus wants to talk about Darlenma, and their friendship. He explains to Orryon that he was on a mission to retrieve something that was thought at the time, would be able to stop the greyborn assault, and end the war sooner, saving countless lives. His mission brought him to the same camp that Darlenma and his children were stationed, providing medical support. The dwarf talks about duty, and asks Orryon what would be better, to save one life, or save many, but does not wait for an answer, before explaining that whilst with Darlenma the greyborn attacked. Magnus and Darlenma began to flee, after ushering wounded and civilians out of the camp through a canyon that Magnus had recently mapped out. There the greyborn shot at the canyon walls to block the path of escape. Magnus tells Orryon that he thought about casting a levitation spell on a large stone, to stop it from falling immediately, and crushing Darlenma, but decided that the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few. The wizard kept his magik not knowing what else he would need it for still hoping to complete his mission.
Orryon stands in stunned silence. His mind taken instantly back to the day his life changed. His return from a routine collection of wounded to bring to the main healers tent gone wrong. Greyborn attacked him too, and killed the others on the mission, allowing Orryon to get away. When he got back to his father’s tent, it was already burning. His eyes flicked to the tables, and desks, and saw no survivors, but the tent flaps at the rear twitched slightly, reminding the elf of the emergency escape route. His eyes saw a true horror that day. His father clinging to the edges of life, chest being crushed beneath a stone as big as his operating tables. Beyond the stone, Orryon saw a greyborn, and then rage took over. Those same ethereal wings burst from him, raising him into the air for the first time. His magik surged, not to heal, but to burn the creature that was ending his father’s life. The actual actions a mystery, then there was burning, and a guttural greyborn scream.
The wings faded.
Orryon was too late. His father had passed whilst he flew and burned. He wept for a time before being saved himself.
Magnus interrupts the elf’s memory and tells him that he had been knocked out, and lay on the other side of the stone. He carries guilt for not having acted differently, and letting his friend die. Magnus tells Orryon that he is just as guilty as the greyborn are for Darlenma’s death, by omission and inaction, rather than action. Magnus urges Orryon to start to use the name his father gave him. To pronounce it as it should be. Oh-Rie-On, and not what he has been using for the last thirty years Or-Ee-An. Orryon warns that he cannot be that same boy anymore, and that he will not change his name back, as the greyborn took it from him, naming their vessel of death the Orion. Shaken by this, the elf runs off into the night sand alone, needing time to process this new information about an all too familiar nightmare of a memory.
Back in the cave, 428 stokes the campfire, heating the interior, whilst Brant and Amelie continue their conversation. Brant wants to know what Amelie will do. She is reluctant to take on her father’s mantle as Protectorate of Mountainsfoot, but knows she has a duty to do so. She tells the halfling that she is unsure about being able to take the title, and whether the people there will accept her, or believe her lineage. Amelie muses for a time about not going back, but Brant manages to convince her that she has a duty to her people, and that her father would not have made his sacrifice for her to neglect her family, her history and her people. This wins the young woman over, who settles to sleep feeling slightly more relaxed about the need to get home. Karmel is already resting, and so Granuaile stays awake to protect the young leader of Mountainsfoot.
Orryon has travelled a fair distance from the cave by this point having left Magnus where they parted ways. The dwarf heads towards the cave entrance but remains outside, waiting for the elf to return. Whilst he is away, Orryon gets a feeling of being followed. The cold breezes across his neck and hairs stand on end, but then the cold passes and he feels warm. He turns, thinking the dwarf has dogged his walk, but is surprised to see a different face. A Jackal made of light, illuminating the sand around it. Its paws don’t actually touch the ground, as it appears to be walking over an invisible path inches above the sand. As Orryon walks, the Jackal follows and the pair journey in relative silence, with a faint magikal hum from the canine, and the soft shifting sands beneath Orryon’s feet. Time passes comfortably. At a reasonable distance, the Jackal stops the elf, and raises a paw, causing an illusion to appear of a set of golden scales. They are perfectly balanced, but then one side, becomes darker, and begins to fall, tipping the balance. As this happens the light side leaves the scales and floats through Orryon’s chest. He relives the first vision he had, after his wings first appear. Stood before a huge stone door way, far larger than anything he has ever seen, with a sense of loss. A funeral perhaps? Then the Jackal’s light pulses and Orryon’s vision returns to him, back in the night sands of Derimyre, with a strong feeling that this vision is a memory, but that it is a false memory. The Jackal then turns and starts to walk back towards the cave, and the tired healer follows until reaching Magnus at the cave mouth. Apparently he cannot see the Jackal that stays with Orryon until sleep overtakes his mind. Magnus comes into the cave, and the rest of the group begin to sleep, whilst the fire starts to dwindle.
The slave’s revolt was out cover. We used it to sneak into an ancient chamber. I may have been Anduwin but it was definitely impressive regardless its origin. In there, was more fighting. One of our allies died. Sally. I gave her rites as mother taught us. It seemed appropriate in the calm at the centre of the revolt.
In the chamber, all manner of chaos ensued but the only thing that matters is that Stahl was drowned and that monster is no more! I don’t remember the fight but that feeling came over me again. I’ve begun to associate it with seeing greyborn. After Stahl died, a wave of water hit me. I’m not too sure what happened but I had a flash of a memory, and the first time I achieved the same results on a wound using father’s techniques rather than magik. The Seer then moved us magikally through the Neverwalk. I still didn’t see it. You’ll have to tell me one day.
We arrived at a Temple of Marr, I think. I had some sort of experience. A Jackal made of light appeared and I felt warmth and calm flood into me, along with some knowledge. Then a dream or vision?
I saw a boy in the water, pulled into a fishing boat. Rescued? He wanted to go home, but then something happened. It looked what I imagine The Sundering would have looked like. The boy was alive and I’m sure I heard him say Venarínn. Could it really be him? The vision faded and I was still in the temple.
The man we had been charged to find, with the Rozen Croits connection, he lay dead after the Jackal. But a girl with his likeness awoke. I later learned that this was his daughter, Amelie. The Seer then moved us again. Neverwalk. Still didn’t see it.
We arrived in a desert. Derimyre I think with our new companion Amelie and a plan to get her home. I plan to do this and then take the Neverwalk or a ship and come home myself. The desert is warm, but eventually we found shelter in a cave after a brief encounter with some locals. However, the shocking news comes next. It seems like so much has happened this day. I will keep writing this journal, but today I wrote you a letter, and plan to send it as soon as I am able. No doubt it will reach you and mother before I do. In that letter I wrote I was traveling with a friend – Magnus. I mean that now, but feel I have been tested after what he told me just moments ago.
He said he feels he killed father. Not directly, but rather through omission. His party were charged with retrieving father, but a boulder was loosened by a blast by that monstrous machine that stole my name. Magnus claims he made a choice not to levitate father out of danger. I’m furious. He was there! He could have saved him. Our whole lives could have been different. Magnus wants me to be Orryon again, and pronounce my name as father did; he wants me to be a healer.
I’ll admit I want this too. I’m trying to calm myself since he spoke to me, but I’m not sure what to do next. We are all always to be held to account for what we do AND what we don’t do. If he guilty? Had I not ran into him a few days ago, would he ever have told me, or any of us? I do not know.
In anger I left him and walks alone in circles in the desert for a while and I felt I wasn’t alone. The Jackal was with me, and I felt calmed. I had another vision from the Jackal – nothing for years, decades really then so many so close together. I feel like I’m not just me anymore, that I’m part of something.
The vision was those familiar closing doors but it felt more like a memory, only wrong somehow. I didn’t just see it again, but this time saw myself stood by the doors. Normally I do not see my own body. The Jackal seemed to ensure that I knew this memory was false. I still do not know what it means. I am tired. I miss you.
– Orryon Ma’talli
In the early hours, the cave is in near darkness, as the fire is almost completely out. 428 is roused from his slumber, and goes to tend the embers, to keep his allies warm. As he stokes the fire pit, the flames before him take on a different colour, shifting from red to a deep crimson, to a darker still blood shade. Still darkening, until the fire is black. Still casting a glow, and a type of warm, though it feels unnatural. Within the fire, some red begins to return in the form of two eyes, staring at 428, unblinking. The fire stays black, and watches the giantkin, before the red eyes look around at the giantkin’s allies and then return to lock their gaze on 428. The red of the eyes then spreads, and return the flame colour to its form. 428 does not get back to sleep after this, and chooses instead to stay awake and keep a watch.
In the morning, the water skins are dry, from the hard ride the day before. This may be a problem, as although Magnus is able to manipulate water with his magik, he cannot create it out of nothing. Review of the maps suggests there is a river to the north, and so the eight set out, riding the horses hard, not breaking for rest. Brant and Orryon cast spells on the horses to heal them, and give them strength to continue galloping across the sand, with the horse Granuaile rides being hardier than the other two. Granuaile has come to call this stallion Julio. Eventually, the party arrive at a bushy outcrop, having ridden hard and ran out of the rations they had, having not expected to be stranded in a desert. The sand darkens as something moves overhead, casting a large long shadow. This draws everyone’s attention upwards as to what this could be. Hoping for a dark rain cloud. What is above them is unexpected. A swarming murmuration of feathers and figures fills the sky above. There are hundreds of birdfolk, flying in formation towards the west.
They appear to be an army from the mountains to the east. The party on the ground start to signal, using their tent canopy, and arcane sparks to glint, to catch attention. As they do so, four birdfolk veer away from the main formation, and fly down towards the group. Their bodies are humanoid, in shape, but with wings on their backs. Avian features of talons and beaks evident and the bodies covered in feathers underneath their armour or clothes, all baring a yellow and white insignia somewhere on their personage. The specific design appears very faded from sun exposure, but the colours are clearer. A large dark feathered member approaches the group, and announces he is in charge of the migration unit, the right hand man of the Silverlance Citadel. They are migrating to a new settlement. The older birdfolk appears to be slightly vulture-like in feature, compared to his more eagle-like brethren. His beak is scarred, and his wings and feathers are noticeably darker than his comrades. This individual introduces himself as Seapriest, and asks what the party is doing in the middle of the desert. When a sufficient answer if given, about having used the Neverwalk without a clear destination, the group explain that they have no desert supplies, and are in need of water.
Water is traded from the birdfolk in exchange for healing skill, as some of the migrators are old, and not fighters. A nest is lowered from the flock, carried by twelve or so soldiers who remain airborne the whole time, their wings beating, keeping them aloft, and holding onto the tethers of the nest, ready to lift it away. Within the nest are infants who have not yet left their nests and elder birdfolk who are too weak to make longer flights. Orryon and Brant do what they can to assist their new temporary allies. Seapriest agrees to have soldiers fly overhead as a means to escort the party to the river, having sighted a township not too far from there, where further aid can be sought. The group rests slightly, and in that time, one of the unnamed horses dies from exhaustion.
The journey before them is long, with only two mounts between eight, only Amelie and Granuaile were riding. Occasionally offering a horse to Magnus due to his weak leg and limp. Nearly a full day later, the party arrives at the river, and their avian escort parts company, wishing the group well on their onward journey.
Following the river there is a small settlement, just as the birdfolk had described. The group enter town and immediately Granuaile and Amelie are given judgemental looks by the local residents. Looking around it is only men that are visible here, but there are female figures under cloth robes, with headscarves and veils. The men appear to be from a range of races: elves, dwarfs, and giantkin, to name but a few. There are also some male figures in full body robes, with the faintest hint of a tail that sometimes swishes out of the bottom of the clothes, and what look to be horns from the head, holding their hoods up. There are three individuals like this, each given a very wide berth by the other individuals milling around. Their size too small to be greyborn, but their horns suggest some sort of other ancestry. Orryon does not want a repeat of the interaction with the warlord, and although he cannot speak the Derimyre language, he chooses to step up and try to obtain appropriate local clothing for the women of the group, to prevent further attention being drawn to them. He locates a trader with a large mechanical loom, and requests veils and robes be made for the women as fast as possible, and is pleasantly surprised that he is able to communicate more effectively here. In the end, the women are provided two sets each, one more casual for day wear, and a finer style for formal events. Magnus notices that in this town of Minaret, the locals are followers of the Anduwin Kaine, and so he takes some time to speak with the religious leaders.
Orryon seeks out a post office and sends a letter he has been carrying for some time to his sister, before joining with Brant to find lodgings for the night. Eventually, rooms are rented at The Iron Sickle, and the party begins to discuss where next, and how to get Amelie home. 428 notices the musician leave the stage in the Sickle’s lounge, and begins to play the piani, with an impeccable natural talent for music. He earns a tidy sum of gold from the patrons impressed by his performance which he is both surprised and pleased with. Whilst he plays, Granuaile confirms that the rooms here are separated by sex, and so she will continue to guard Amelie overnight, as Karmel must bunk with the other men in the group. Whilst he is uneasy about leaving his ward, he settles somewhat knowing Granuaile will be there to defend the young Protectorate, having seen the half-orc perform more than admirably in battle. Food and supplies are purchased from the tavern in preparation for the next leg of the journey, not wanting to be caught without water again.
Magnus then approaches Brant, as he wants to talk about his past. Brant tells him he has worked for the Silver Assault before, recalling a time during the war when he was a spy aboard the Orion. He was there to try to figure out how to bring the ship down, and sabotage what he could. Brant also tells of his history in Vespard where he restored the rightful nobility to power in Mountainsfoot, and is known as the Hero of Vespard because of this. The night comes around again, and the party separate into their respective dorms, hoping that tomorrow they can secure passage on a ship out of this town, and onwards down the river.
Morning comes and Brant Goldust is keen to impress his charisma and overall likeability. He, 428 and Rhogar approach the docks and begin to survey the moored boats there. The halfling attempts to negotiate passage on a suitably sized vessel but instead ends up pissing of someone who is apparently linked to the organisation Imperious and pushes him into the water. Rhogar also attempts to get a boat and speaks to an older man, finding out that his vessel is small and unable to manage the whole party. He approaches another, ship, linked with pirates, who are keen to reduce the cost of travel in exchange for shaving all of Rhogar’s fur off. However, it is 428 who manages to find a boat and arrange passage. Whilst Orryon and Granuaile take supplies not needed and one horse to be sold – not Julio, Magnus asks Amelie about death. He wonders what it is like, and whether she can recall the reality of it all and the Anduwin, having been brought back from beyond death. She says she cannot, and is clearly uncomfortable reliving her memories of coming back, as her hand unconsciously reaches up to the coffin necklace that still carries her father’s body.
The party reunites at the docks having learned that the journey to Al’Zieharia will take a day and a half. All board, including Julio, which the crew look on as slightly unconventional, but shortly after the vessel departs and the voyage is underway. As they sail towards the city, the old man with the small boat appears to be following the party. His vessel begins to transform, and take on the shape of a more metallic craft, heading in the same direction as the party. Magnus steps towards the stern and extends his hands uttering an incantation before mist streams out of his fingertips, and grows denser. The metal boat continues its path, but Magnus’ mist is turning into fog over the river, and covers all. The eight, Julio and their vessel are able to get away from their metallic pursuer.
Today was interesting.
I met some birdfolk. They seemed odd, but were kind. Kind enough to give us water in a desert, as well as pointing us in the direction of a settlement. I managed to post that letter I wrote you.
I still haven’t spoken a single word to Magnus since his great revelation.
We left the settlement by boat, sailing the river towards Al’Zieharia. I’ll write more then, now I must rest. I am tired and need to sleep, though I am almost afraid of sleep, for fear of yet more visions or dreams.
– Orryon Ma’talli